What is an effective way to use a time-out?

What is an effective way to use a time-out?

So it’s not always necessary that time-outs are ineffective, but it’s the purpose of the time-out and the method by which it’s implemented is what often needs to be re-visited.  Time-outs can be an effective way of helping to calm a child down and helping to keep him and others safe, but if your purpose for the time-out is to teach the child a lesson and discourage him from engaging in problematic behavior in the future, then we need to be a bit more thoughtful about how to accomplish that than simply sending them away to “sit and think about what you’ve done.”  When implementing a time-out, you’ll want to consider the setting, the timing, the explanation and the repair.

With regards to the setting, time-outs should be served in an area of the home void of any distractions or too much external stimuli.  Make sure it’s a quiet space void of any toys, games, or other children that might distract the child.

As far as timing is concerned, it’s important that the time-out immediately follows the rule-breaking behavior so that your child can make a direct association between the behavior and the disciplinary intervention that comes as a result.  You can give a child a brief warning first, but if the problematic behavior persists beyond the warning then be sure that the timeout is quick to follow. As far as the actual duration of the timeout is concerned, a common rule that parents follow is 1 minute per year of age.  I’m always one for using every instance of a disciplinary intervention as a teachable moment, so you may want to consider using a timer the child can see and understand to help him develop the capacity to monitor and self-regulate during the course of the timeout.

Finally regarding explanation and repair, once the time out has ended, it will be important for you to explain to your child in simple and direct language that he can understand why he was on time-out and how he can avoid it from happening again in the future. An example of this might look like, “You were in time-out because you were hitting mommy, and when you hit mommy it means that your body is unsafe and mommy’s body is unsafe.”  Give your child a chance to repeat back the lesson learned, and then follow that with a hug, kiss, and some kind words of affection before returning to play.